Why Football Is More Popular Than Music In America
by Alex Cosper (2/16/15)

The 2015 Grammys marked a ratings decline of 11% from 2014, according to Nielsen figures. Although the music awards program was number one in its time slot, it only drew 25 million viewers, which may seem like a large audience, but in the world of Nielsen TV ratings for big events, it was an ant compared with the Super Bowl, which set a record with 114 million viewers. So why is the biggest football show over four times more popular than the biggest popular music show?

In a nutshell, football offers a better melting pot of cultural imagery than music does. Music is much more segmented and segregated due to the way it is marketed. Does it have to be this way? No, because it didn't use to be that way. From the late fifties (when rock and roll divided radio into teen and adult stations) through the late seventies (when radio consultants began fine-tuning different radio formats for different audiences), most Americans were dialed into pop music formats that played a lot of the same music. The exceptions were specialty formats designed for niche audiences, such as freeform radio, which transformed into album rock.

Even so, during the 1970s when pop radio stations played a much wider and diverse mix of musical styles, the Super Bowl drew many more millions of viewers than the Grammys. By contrast, the 2014 World Series averaged close to 14 million viewers with the biggest audience of 23.5 million viewers tuning in on game 7, which fell slightly below the viewership of the 2015 Grammys. Baseball's biggest game was back in 1986 when the World Series averaged 36 million viewers.

Football is often called a "man's sport," yet nearly half the Super Bowl audience is female. A big reason why it's so popular is that it's a game that reflects modern culture. Instant replays and upbeat sportscasters help make the game exciting, along with the fact that it's a game that generates a lot of stats. Americans tend to love stats because they often settle arguments as to who's the best in their respective fields. It's also a game of measurements, much like the money system, and it's a race against time.

Like the business world and the seasons, football is divided into quarters, which take on storybook qualities. It's also a team sport that teaches lessons about decision-making and play execution. The field is a half acre and reflects elements of the real estate industry, which is of interest to over half the U.S. population. Real estate is often thought of as a secure investment.

If you visit a football game in almost any part of the country you will see that it attracts diverse demographics of all ages and ethnic groups. Music, on the other hand, has been divided into markets based on specific demographics. Even though music is considered the "universal language," somehow American pop music is not the most popular form of entertainment. In this sense the music industry can learn its own lessons about marketing to a wider audience, rather than trying to stuff everyone tightly into boxes of subgroups. Many other industries, such as tech, auto and food aim at wide demographics, whereas the struggling industries of music and radio target narrow demographics.

Music could probably be a much more successful industry in the 21st century if it aimed at releasing more universal artists and songs. After all, part of the reason the music industry's most successful act The Beatles were so popular was that they recorded a wide mix of music with universal themes that appealed to all ages and cultures. The music industry's relentless attempt to push immature artists like Justin Bieber and Kanye West down people's throats simply is not universal enough to keep the industry above water.

Some of the most loyal music fans are not being served by the industry, whose executives seem defend pop mediocrity by clinging to the mantra that music isn't art, it's just a business. Well, a lot of the people who like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd actually do consider music to be art but haven't had a dose of strong musicianship or visionary songwriting in a long time. Almost no artist on the pop scene in 2015 has a sound that appeals to wide demographics.

Even in the off-season, you'll notice that football teams are still more likely to grab headlines on national news websites rather than music stars. Stories about whether or not Peyton Manning will return as quarterback of the Denver Broncos next season or the shocker that former San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh did not exit the team by choice have been bigger news stories than anything Kanye West said or didn't say at the Grammys, although he did stir up a big debate on social media, for his comment that album of the year winner should give his award to Beyonce.

The negative reaction to West's comment probably was not the best publicity an artist could wish for. In many ways it was a bigger embarrassment than the interception that cost the Seahawks another championship title.

The Super Bowl is commonly the most popular television show every year in America. During the regular season Monday Night Football is often the top show of the week, although this audience is significantly smaller than the playoffs or championship game. Many people plan house parties or visit sports bars during the playoff season, which is held in December and January, followed by the Super Bowl the first week of February. One of the reasons the (49th) Super Bowl XLIX was so popular in 2015 could be explained by the matchup between the defending champion Seattle Seahawks and the former champion New England Patriots. It was an exciting contest between the league's top two teams, in which the Patriots won 28-24.

Even though soccer is the most popular sport in the world, football has been the most popular sport in America since the 1970s. Soccer is called football around the world outside of The United States, which can be confusing to some Americans. The ancestor of American football is Rugby, which is still popular in England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world. Hockey is popular in the U.S. and Canada.

Here some of the world's biggest sporting events listed in a loose order based on popularity, which varies from year to year:

OLYMPICS - The Olympic Games, Winter Olympics (IOC)
FOOTBALL - The Super Bowl (NFL)
CRICKET - Cricket Cup World Championship (ICC)
AUTO RACING - NASCAR Daytona 500, Monaco Grand Prix
BASEBALL - The World Series (MLB)
GOLF - The Masters Tournament, US Open (USGA), The Open Championship (R&A), PGA Championship
HOCKEY - The Stanley Cup (NHL)
HORSE RACING - The Kentucky Derby
TENNIS - The Grand Slam: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbleton, US Open

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